Woodworker, episode 2

Now I have made enough progress to present some more of my attempt to make 14th century chests (I am making 2 – one for me, and one for my wife).

The chests are based on a typical ”hutch chest design”, where the legs of the chest are actually part of the sides of the chest itself. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but I’ll make a try with a pic. I mentioned before that I am not a craftsman, and before you judge me, I would also like to state that I am not an artist either. Nevertheless – I am damned proud of the above pic. It is the schematics I should have had before I started to work on that chest. I never thought I could make something as accurate as that picture, and it gives me good hope that I am not that useless when it comes to arts and crafts after all! Sometimes I despair, of course, like when I look at my good friend Alex’s stuff. He’s like:
”Oh, I just made it last evening. It took me a couple of hours. I’m not particularly happy with it, but it does it’s job.” When I try to make something the like, I usually end up in a sweaty, swearing heap with a headache – after about two weeks of planning, preparations, work and mistake after mistake.

When I was at my first reenactment event, the summer of 2003 in Azincourt, France, I met a group reenacting Burgundians of the mid 15th century. When I saw their stuff I was astonished, and when I had some time alone, I cried a bit, and wanted to go home. I was so proud of the clothes I had managed to tack together, and it all went to dismay when I saw their heavenly outfits. ”HOW!?” I asked myself. ”How can they produce such fine stuff? I will never ever be able to sew clothes that are half as good.”

But then I started thinking a bit, and came to the conclusion that these Burgundians had started out just like me – without anything to wear at all. And they had also made mistakes. Several hundreds. Maybe I can’t be just as good as they, but I am steadily growing better at everything I dare to try. Even though I despair, and doubt my very craftsman-foundation from time to time, that thought is comforting, and keeps me on my feet when I feel worthless. Everyone has made countless mistakes, and very few are actually happy with what they make; my friend Johan has made more things than I can even imagine, but he still says he’s been happy with only two of them. And one broke in Italy last year (the irony!)… On my own part, I am at my fourth panzar/gambeson, and as soon as I’m finished, I’ll make a new one. Hopefully, the fifth will be the last, as I have now made most of the possible mistakes when stitching gambesons.

Oh well. Back to that chest. To this day, I have joined the boards of the gables and the long sides together, with strips of wood fitted in grooves in the edges of the boards.

The picture on the left, shows what I am talking about. Next step will be to make grooves in the edges of the chest legs, to fit the joint tongues of the walls, thus putting the chest together.

I worked the joint tongues with a plane to bevel them, mostly to make them fit but also to make it look good, and made with care; the bevelled bit won’t be visible from the chest outside – it can only be seen when opening the chest, and most probably I will be the only one doing that. It is a lot of work for no one to see. I didn’t even have to work them with a plane at all (and that was solid pain and sweat) – I could just have made them simple and straight, as I leave the other side of the joint tongue. It would have been period anyway. Silly me. The picture to the above left shows how the worked joint tongue looks (and the picture below shows the un-worked side – the one that will be visible from the outside. It will hopefully fit in nicely in the chest leg.

The gables won’t be worked at all. A wide groove (at least in comparison) will be made in the flat of the legs, where the gables will be fitted. They will be fastened with wooden dowels. This means that I will be almost finished in a couple of weeks (not in time for Morimondo, Italy, though…). Apart from the lid. And the bottom. And the hinges. And the lock (OK – hinges and lock are made by blacksmiths I know – I wouldn’t want to try making anything as important by myself – at least not this time). Anyway. I can see the light in the end of the tunnel. More coming up as I go along!

2 reaktioner på ”Woodworker, episode 2

  1. Thanks for sharing, these are really interesting photos and I appreciate the drawings. I want to make one of these for myself someday and this information will be really helpful.

  2. Thanks for reading, Kathy. Please note that the boards forming the walls would be a lot wider; in other words – a chest of this size might well have walls, floor and lid consisting of only one, broad board each.

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